Redick, Bucks playing well together
In a span of 15 days, J.J. Redick went from being one of the few bright spots on a struggling Orlando Magic team to a key contributor to a team firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
It's been a return to normal for the 28-year-old, who played in 44 playoff games for the Magic from 2007 to 2012 but was on the outside looking in this year as the Magic tumbled from perennial playoff participant to lottery candidate.
"There have been several times the last week where I've caught myself down the stretch with (an excitement) for competition, like 'Woo, competition,' just excited to be in that situation where games matter," Redick said with a smile. "I kind of missed that this year in Orlando. Not that the games didn't matter but just to be in the playoff hunt, to be in a situation where each win, each loss really and truly means something."
Since joining the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 22, the team is 4-2, has climbed above the .500 mark for the first time since mid-February and has played five games decided by five points or less, including two overtime victories.
"It'd be nice have some yawner's I guess," he said with a laugh. "No, these are fun games to play in."
When he arrived in Milwaukee, Redick professed his respect for the incumbent backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis and felt he would be a good compliment to their skill sets. Head coach Jim Boylan felt the same way, but acknowledged it would take some time to find the proper mix of players and minutes distribution.
It seems that now, after six games and a handful of practices; the Bucks are finding that cohesion.
"Our guys have really welcomed him," Boylan said. "He's fit in really nice with Brandon and Monta. It's not a coincidence in my eyes that we're playing at a better level right now than we were and it has to do, I think, with the chemistry of our team right now and the position that we're in and guys knowing what's on the line right here."
What's on the line is no longer just securing a playoff spot – the Bucks are nine games ahead of Toronto in the loss column – but perhaps moving upward in the East.
"We've been working all year to try and be a playoff team," Boylan said. "It was a little dicey there for a while when we were stumbling around in February (going 4-8) but we got our footing back and we're moving in the right direction again."
After showing some initial frustration with his minutes following the first game with Redick in the lineup on Feb. 23 against Atlanta, and then sitting for a long stretch in a comeback win over Dallas on Feb. 26, Jennings seems to have found a comfort zone with Redick and Ellis the last week.
In Redick's first three games, Jennings shot just 31.8 percent from the floor, averaged just 9.5 points and 5.5 assists. In the last three, the 23-year-old point guard has averaged 16.3 points, 16 assists and is shooting 45 percent from the field.
Ellis took to the three guard rotation seamlessly, earning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors for his three-game effort from Feb. 26 to March 2 when he averaged 24 points, 9 assists and 5 steals per game while shooting 44 percent from the field. He also hit a game-winning three against Houston in that stretch.
For his part, Redick has transitioned in seamlessly despite the challenges that come with being traded.
"J.J. has come in and been just a consummate professional about everything," Boylan said. "It's hard being traded after being on the same team for a long time and suddenly you're traded to a different team and you've got to move and settle in and there are a bunch of other things around the outside that sometimes people forget. But he's done an unbelievable job."
Through six games, Redick is averaging about three fewer minutes on the court per game now that he's coming off the bench, but he has been effective. He's averaging 13.3 points and shooting nearly 48 percent from the floor. Redick has also shot 50 percent or better in four games.
"My focus has been just trying to help us win, whatever that is – energy, scoring off the bench, in the Toronto game helping get some stops defensively down the stretch," he said. "To me, it's whatever's needed.
"The transition has been smooth. The front office has been very welcoming and everybody in Milwaukee, whether my wife and I are out to dinner or at breakfast and everybody has been very friendly and nice and making me feel at home. So it's been easy. My teammates have been great, the coaches have been great. So I have no complaints and just all positive, positive thoughts."
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